Possibly the closest Super Bowl matchup in history also poses the question: how much does it mean when certain aspects of an NFL team improve dramatically in the second half of the season?
01 Dec 2003
We didn't get as many entries to our Homage to Peter King contest as we did to our Homage to TMQ contest. Perhaps next time we should try to have Peter write about us in his column before we run this contest, or we should have Peter get fired for silly political reasons so that Instapundit can link to the contest. Nonetheless, we were able to replicate pretty much an entire MMQB, although we had to invent some extra kids for Peter. Actually, I think that's Heath Florkey writing about his kids. This column represents the effors of Heath as well as Paul Kennedy, Michael Shea, Jason Smith, Doug Gorius, Dave DuPlantis, some guy named "Chad" whose email had no last name, the Outsiders, and especially Gary Blanchard. Almost half of this material, including the Brett Favre intro, the extremely skewed Fine Fifteen, and many of the Things I Think I Think, was written by Gary Blanchard, and so he makes a very fine winner of the $20 Starbucks gift certificate so he can indulge his coffeenerdness. Gary, send along your snail mail address.
And to Peter, if you read this, we hope you know this parody is meant as respectful homage (even the bit about your friendship with Brett Favre). Keep pumpin' out the great columns.
KILN, MISS. -- I am with Brett Favre on Saturday morning, somewhere deep in the backwoods of Mississippi. We are hunting for a big game -- namely, our belated Thanksgiving meal to stuff in an oven in Kiln, home to Brett and Deanna Favre. Brett, armed with bow and arrow, echoes of Burt Reynolds from Deliverance, quietly stalks his prey through the brush. I, outfitted only with a Ned Beatty gut, struggle to keep up. I follow behind Brett, step for step. I am so close to Brett right now, I can feel his breath. I can't help but think, I bet Deanna is jealous right about now.
What a quarterback.
What a man.
Brett is a throwback all right - a throwback to Perseus, sculpted from the Greek gods. How his rugged Russell Crowe Gladiator beard accentuates his full, buxom lips. The way Brett's hips undulate, and gyrate, and undulate - oh, how they undulate - when Brett talks to me on the driving range. Or the way Brett's nose twinkles when I ask him pointed questions like "Why are you such a good football player when it's cold, Brett?" In a past life, this nubile young man must have been some sort of explorer. Hernando de Soto, perhaps.
Naysayers might have asked Brett at some point about his Thursday performance. But pay no mind to that fourth quarter pick that lost the game for the Sons of Sherman. Brett is a gunslinger. Always has been. Always will be. Those things happen. Brett was just trying to make a play. Brett can quarterback my team any day.
On our hunt, Brett, a simple man, is a stealthy but fast walker. "Hey, pssst, Country Time," I whisper, still lagging hopelessly behind. "I have your Packer boxers, the ones without the green writing on the elastic... just like you asked. Now toss me one of those footballs in your backpack, will ya?"
"Alright... so long as you used starch this time. Go deep, Peter!"
I never felt so alive! My heart pounding like a kettle drum, sweat dripping down the nape of my neck. Argh!!!! I predictably drop Brett's pass -- a perfect spiral, reminiscent of Chris Simms against Oklahoma. Stupid, King! STUPID! The ball skips underneath a nearby chain link fence, protected by a security guard patrolling outside a log cabin. I ask the guard if I might be able to get the Favre ball on the other side of the fence... as I hear Brett lob Carnell Lake jokes in my direction from afar. (Brett and I kid with each other, you know. Brett is like that with me sometimes.)
But, then, behind me, all of a sudden, I hear the running footsteps of a kid, maybe seven, who'd apparently snuck behind me and got past the guard, too. This kid scrambles through someone's backyard, without permission, to get the football he was sure was the one Brett threw to me. But I pick up the True Ball, and tell the kid: "I'm sure you've got the one Brett threw to me," just so he'd feel good about it. This kid was trying to steal my ball! The ball Brett intended for me! That would make it stolen property. I thank the guard sincerely, tell him the ball would be put to good use, and go back to watching Brett snag us our belated Thanksgiving dinner.
And now you know why I have the best job on earth. And Theo Epstein thought he had it good sitting down with the Schillings for turkey!
Offensive Player of the Week
I'm proudly on board the Anthony Wright Pro Bowl bandwagon. 44 points in back-to-back games? I'm starting to believe, men of Billick. By the way, in between games Wright's wife gave birth to their second child, a daughter named Trinity after the character from the Matrix films. It's good to see such a family man finally getting his chance in the NFL.
Defensive Player of the Week
Baltimore LB Ray Lewis, still the best in the business, keyed the rout of San Francisco with 18 tackles and an interception return for a touchdown. If the Ravens can make it back to the Super Bowl, perhaps Lewis will teach us all another new dance.
Special Teams Player of the Week
New England LB Tully Banta-Cain. Bethel Johnson will get the limelight on my WEEI buddy Dale Arnold's show in Boston, but TBC -- summoning the spirit of Chris Akins summoning the spirit of Tebucky Jones -- opened up the lane for Bethel.
Coach of the Week
Dwight Freeney of the Indianapolis Colts has become one of the league's dominant pass rushers this year, so New England offensive coordinator Charlie Weis knew he had to build a game plan that prevented Freeney from getting near quarterback Tom Brady. On nearly every passing down, Weis stuck an extra tight end on the left side to help tackle Matt Light keep Freeney away from the quarterback. In addition, the Patriots spent the first half running screen pass after screen pass so that Brady could deliver the ball before Freeney had a chance to breathe on him. I haven't seen that many screens since I was in the video room where new Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling studies tape of every pitch he's ever thrown in the big leagues. The result: only one sack for Freeney, and 38 points for New England.
Goats of the Week
Tony Dungy, for kicking off to Bethel Johnson with 12 seconds left in the first half and the Colts on a 14-point roll. Tony, you're still a class act, but next time, have Mike Vanderjagt squib one, okay? Also, Tampa Bay second-year CB Tim Wansley, who was beaten by Jimmy Smith on the winning 48-yard touchdown that ended Tampa's season. Wansley has been to injured cornerback Brian Kelly what Craig Grebeck was to Nomar Garciaparra back when Nomar missed most of the 2001 season with a wrist injury.
Stat of the Week
The Detroit Lions have a three-game home winning streak. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Marty Mornhinweg.
I don't know how everyone else's travel went Thanksgiving Day, but I must admit I enjoyed my travels. I woke up, traveled to my bathroom, got cleaned up and dressed and headed out to the Kitchen. After a fantastic cup of coffee and some French Toast, I traveled to the dishwasher and deposited my dishes in the dishwasher. I did spend the next couple hours dodging my wife as we passed each other going to the cabinets, to the refrigerator, and to the oven repeatedly. After a near collision with the two year-old's Lego blocks, my feet, and the pumpkin pie, the rest of the morning was spent traveling upstairs and downstairs with a dust cloth and a vacuum. Family and Friends arrived later for the meal. It was a fantastic trip this year for my clan.
1. I think these are my quick-hit thoughts of the NFL weekend:
a. If the Patriots had only 10 healthy players, I think Bill Belichick would still have them in a close game to the end. At one point on Sunday, the Patsies had no fewer than four rookie defenders on the field in the fourth quarter: Eugene Wilson, a young Ronnie Lott; Dan Klecko, a budding Joe Klecko; Ty Warren, a blossoming Richard Seymour; Asante Samuel, a burgeoning Deion Sanders. I think the Belichickians will be stocked through the end of Curt Schilling's Beantown odyssey.
b. Don't worry, John Kasay, this won't happen again.
c. I guess Jeff Blake wasn't the answer for Arizona after all.
d. Chad Johnson, you have a game to match you cousin Keyshawn's mouth.
e. Stand-up move, Tony Dungy, admitting your mistake in kicking to Bethel Johnson late in the first half yesterday. Many of your coaching brethren too often refuse to do the same.
f. If Paul Tagliabue ever succeeds in rotating Thanksgiving games among all 32 teams, it'll cost the Lions about one win every three years.
g. I did it again: I benched Peyton Manning for Jeff Garcia in my fantasy football league.
h. When Oakland and San Diego play on December 27th, the networks ought to do everyone in California a favor and black out the game.
i. You deserved better than you got, Frank Solich.
j. Domanick Davis, you can play for my team any Sunday.
k. I think I could get the ball further downfield than Patriot lucky charm Ken Walter. As could some of the 12-and-under Punt, Pass, and Kick competitors.
l. Please stop pointing to that crucifix on your arm after every touchdown, Jon Kitna. I sincerely doubt that the Almighty has anything to do with it.
2. I think Daunte Culpepper isn't good enough yet to carry the Vikings into the Super Bowl. It's not all on his shoulders, but he always seems to come up with a turnover or two just when you think the Vikings are back in the game.
3. I think a lot of my colleagues mention this supposed Sports Illustrated cover jinx to me. But what about the Peter King jinx? After Lawyer Milloy and Emmit Smith spoke lying lies about me to the press, their teams are a combined 8-16. Post-King Emmitt: 65 carries, 192 yards, 1 TD, one O.J. Simpson end to a career. Post-King Lawyer Milloy: 0 interceptions, 0 tackles for loss, 0 blocked kicks.
4. I still think that the BCS isn't the answer. USC will struggle with Oregon State, LSU will whip Georgia, the Trojans will get stomped by Bob Stoops' boys, and no one in Cajunville will be happy. By the way, I think that TCU is making a big mistake by turning down an invitation to the GMAC Bowl to focus on exams, but mostly because of the timing. It seems too much like sour grapes -- even though they were the ones who kept themselves out of a BCS bowl game.
5.1A.(i)(d)(subsection -ccc) (cross reference .000112239) I think you can't possibly imagine the pain associated with playing this game until you've actually concussed yourself intentionally. In order to fathom the sacrifices made in the modern NFL I had my daughter Mary Beth King crack me over the head with her field hockey stick several times and I think I can make the four following statements firsthand:
Number 2. Never try to think up interesting story items against a deadline and under the influence of 10 egg nog lattes.
Number 3. I forget Number 3.
Number 4. No matter how bad it hurts, Grady Little's decision to keep Pedro in hurts even more. But seriously, when you see a Steve Young or a Bill Romanowski, or that guy... you know, the other guy who's name now escapes me... the one with the hair who they thought was gay? Um, that one. Whatshisname. When you see them go through the punishment they go through, you just have to remember to tip your baristas and waitresses. What was I saying? God my head hurts.
6. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. I don't understand the ESPN commercials for Thursday night hockey. They acknowledge that hockey was invented in Canada, so what, exactly, is made in America, and will they show these commercials if the telecast happens to be Ottawa at Toronto?
b. I usually think the college basketball season is too long, and then, about once every other year, I see a Chaminade beating a Villanova, and then I think it's all worthwhile.
c. Mario Lemieux, you would have been better off retiring when you were healthy. No one likes to ride off into the sunset from the trainer's room, but now may be the time for you.
d. Carnivale and K Street aren't doing it for me, HBO. I want my Tony Soprano, Nate Fisher and Jim McNulty back, please.
e. Anyone seen this Friends? What a hoot! That Joey should have his own show.
f. I finally saw Brother Bear. I'd give it a B-plus. Now, the book was an A-plus, a masterpiece, one of the best books written during my lifetime. A powerful, uplifting message about friendship and community. Rick Moranis is one of the greats.
g. Coffeenerdness: This morning, while on my third triple-mocha iced latte I settled down to watch my son's under-9 soccer team, the Fraps, take on their bitter rivals, Decaf United. As I sat in the stands with the other parents, bundled up like the spectators at the Ice Bowl, I gulped my coffee as quickly as possible lest it freeze in mid-swallow. What a joy it was to watch 22 eight- and nine-year-olds running around in arctic conditions chasing after a ball that seemed to have a mind of its own. I couldn't help but think of the existential essence of the experience.
As the first half ended in a 0-0 deadlock all of us in the stands were glad the ball never left the frozen tundra as we were all frightened of what might happen were a frozen ball to strike the forehead of an unsuspecting forward - as no one that age ever looks to head the ball on purpose. So, while the children, red as cherries from the frigid temperatures, huddled around the coach, who did his best to pass down some advice sure to become relevant at some later stage in their lives, I headed to the concession stand to find liquid refreshment.
While I admit to being a coffee-nerd of the highest degree I must say I felt a slight guilty pleasure at sipping a triple-dutch hot chocolate that I, somehow, persuaded the barista under the stands to whip up. In the meantime the second half of the game kicked off and the Fraps headed downfield with reckless abandon. Alas, the shot - the best shot of the morning - clanged off the goal post. Try as they might, neither side was able to muster another scoring opportunity like that and the game ended in a 0-0 draw.
After stopping at Starbucks on the way home to pick up a triple-espresso, double-mocha latte, I explained to my son what a metaphor the game was for life. After an elaborate exposition on the importance of fleeting chances and missed opportunities the only thing my son could say was "What's a metaphor?"
h. Sixth Grade Volleyball Note of the Week: Sadly, I have to report that my daughter's sixth grade volleyball team is done for the season. While the little ladies battled with tremendous passion and determination, they were only able to secure fifth place in their tournament. I was able to obtain an exclusive interview with #1 on the team (a.k.a. my daughter):
Me: How do you think your team did this season against a higher level of competition?
#1: We took it one game at a time and gave 110%. We're happy that we won half of our matches.
Me: Are you disappointed that you weren't able to beat your crosstown rivals in the tournament?
#1: A little bit. We thought we would beat them, but they're just a little better than we are right now. We'll get them next year.
Me: So when are you going to start spiking the ball into the faces of the other girls?
#1: Can we go to McDonald's now Dad?
I can't believe I only have six years left of volleyball to watch. It's all coming to an end much too quickly.
i. Can I adopt Theo Epstein?
7. I think that the only time that NFL teams should be allowed to wear orange jerseys is if they are required to appear on a hunting trip with Deion Sanders on ESPN's The New American Sportsman.
8. I think it's good to be an American. And a Hasselbeck.
9. I think my vote for rookie of the year goes to Dan Klecko of the New England Patriots. Have you seen this guy? The Pats have utilized him on offensive, defensive, and special teams in a variety of situations. After watching countless hours of game-film, I have deduced that he has played a total of 13 different positions on the football field. On top of all of that, he is a graduate of Temple, and in a phone conversation I had last week with him, he offered to take Mary Beth on a tour of the campus in the spring. Go Owls!
10. I think someone should take a laser beam to the part in Jim Nantz' hair.
1) NEW ENGLAND (10-2): Bill Belichick called on my cell to wish Mary Beth and the King clan a Happy Thanksgiving. What a class act. But lose the sweatshirt, Bill. Natty. Just natty.
2) TAMPA BAY (5-7): New rule: Super Bowl champions get seven mulligans. You have to ask yourself, would you want to play against this defense in January? I don't think so. And Warren Sapp told me to tell you you wouldn't. I wouldn't want to disagree with the big fella. Just ask Mike Sherman. Brett Favre told me so.
3) GREEN BAY (6-6): We'll pretend Thanksgiving didn't happen.
4) TENNESSEE (9-2): Steve McNair, you can play for my fantasy football team anytime. Now that Danny Wuerffel's out of the league.
5) PHILADELPHIA (9-3): On the Iggles' roster are players named Tyreo Harrison, Tra Thomas, and Troy Vincent? What in the name of Ndukwe Kalu were Ms. Harrison, Ms. Vincent, and Ms. Thomas thinking? They should contact Al Davis about acquiring Nnamdi Asomugha. Why wouldn't you just name your boy something wholesome like Neil, or Lance, or Chip? Or, failing that, Brett?
6) ST. LOUIS: Mike Martz, misunderstood genius. Next time, go for the two against the Vikes. Onside kick it, up, 48-17. Don't let the jealous media tell you how to run the Bulgers. Oh, forgot to tell you: I bumped you up to #3 on my speed dial, Mike. We'll talk.
7) PANTHERS (8-4): Yes, Virginia, every once in awhile, I get one of my pre-season picks right.
8) COWBOYS (8-4): Had to drop Bill an I.O.U for Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday night. He has my Laz-E-boy ready with our shared remote ready to go, though.
9) VIKINGS (7-5): With apologies to Tom Jackson, Store It Away: Randy Moss in 2004: 189 catches, 2,493 yards, 34 TDs.
10) DENVER (8-4): Well, some team has to be 10th. It might as well be the one led by Jake the Snake.
11) SAN FRANCISCO (5-7): Tim Rattay for President.
12) ATLANTA (2-10): The folks at Bristol finally got a Sunday game with players worthy of Paul Maguire bragging about who he spent the week with.
13) COLTS (9-3): Some people will tell you Peyton Manning isn't a first ballot Hall of Famer simply because he hasn't won a playoff game with one of the best offensive casts in the history of football. I am not one of those people.
14) SEATTLE (8-4): I have created a monster. Mary Beth is hooked on Arabian Mocha Savanis. Imagine, you're 17, and you spend your allowance on Arabian Mocha Savanis.
15) CHIEFS (11-1): Hey, Dick Vermeil, you have my number. A call after our last field hockey loss would have been appreciated.
It's a rerun of 7th Heaven on the WB and Emeril's Christmas Party is in on the Food Network. It's only an hour and is over by 9pm EST. That takes care of my wife's Monday TV viewing. My four year- old is with his grandparents that night, so Sponge Bob Square Pants on Nickelodeon won't be seen. It's the two year-old's bedtime and his three week-old sister doesn't care a whole lot about anything unless it has to do with eating, sleeping, her pacifier and her diaper changed. With all these factors in line and only having one TV in our house, I really like my chances on Monday night to watch the Titans-Jets.
Oh, you want to know about the game, don't you. Jeff Fisher always has his team ready for big games, and you can't tell me that they saw the score from Indianapolis yesterday just so they could lie down against the Jets. Titans, 21-13.